We’re stuck with Earl

An update from one of the Guyana volunteers on the Volunteer Advisory Committee:

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 10:42:09 -0800 (PST)
From: “hidden”

Hiya Jason.

We just had a guy come down from the office of Special Services, a part of the Peace Corps? medical office in D.C., to address the many concerns and complaints that have been voiced about Earl. Unfortunately, the dude was more of a sensei than anything else: he wouldn’t focus on any of the concrete issues that we had, or the specific problems that we raised about Earl; he would only talk about “how we were all feeling about it.” Total flake. It took us four and a half hours in a VAC meeting with this guy to figure out that he wasn’t going to help us. It looks like, if we go through the regular channels, we’re stuck with Earl.

If you ask me, “no viable assignment in country” is a way of saying “our programming sucks.” How ridiculous is it that they’d send a volunteer home because they’re too lazy to put a site together? Guyana is BLEEDING for people who can do what you do- the only reason there wasn’t a site was because they weren’t willing to put the slightest effort into answering the dozens of requests they get for IT volunteers. In my town of 12,000 alone, I can think of four places where an IT volunteer would have a full time job, and then some. “No viable assignment” is a paltry excuse. You got shafted, you know it, we know it, and we’re all pissed about it.

At this point, most volunteers are going out of their way to stay away from Earl and the office. This is a sad, dangerous situation: in an emergency, I can’t think of anyone who would now go to the office FIRST. I’d more rely on my friends in Guyana than the staff if things got rough. This is just because when volunteers have in the past few months gone to Earl with problems, it turns into a witch hunt AGAINST the volunteer. Example: One volunteer got an ANONYMOUS death threat. Earl’s reaction was to grill her for over an hour on why she was putting herself at odds with her community members, and tell her he was sending her home. It was by the skin of her teeth that she stayed: she was packed and ready.

I know the feeling all too well. Right off the bat, I can think of two security-related issues that GUY 10 volunteers chose not to report to the Peace Corps office because they feared how the staff would handle the situation. When you don’t have the trust of those who are supposed to be looking after and defending your best interest, it makes for a stressful and unsafe working environment. Hang in there my friends.